Between one and two million Moroccans came out on Sunday to give a lesson to the world. They walked—men and women, Muslims and Jews, atheists and Christians, Berbers and Arabs, children and the elderly –to show how national pride and coexistence are experienced in daily life. They carried flags and pictures of the king; they displayed slogans condemning terror; and they chanted Allah Akbar and la ilalha illa allah. It was, in my opinion, the most momentous act of courage Moroccans have displayed in modern history. Just like anti-colonial nationalists and Green March volunteers were willing to give their lives to liberate their country from foreign occupation, those who marched in Casablanca did so to reclaim their rich heritage from the reign of terror. They are our heroes, entitled to the same accolades and wisams. They are torch bearers in a region out of focus and a world without compass.
Those marchers were also the best messengers for Islam that I have seen in my lifetime. They were patriotic without being chauvinistic, proud without being arrogant, peaceful without being weak, and Muslim without being prejudiced. One veiled woman carried the picture of the victims and showed her utter contempt for the so-called Muslim perpetrators of the act. Our Jewish brothers and sisters (who, as we all know, lived in Morocco way before Islam) came out in huge numbers to reaffirm their unshakable commitment to their homeland and join ranks with their Muslim compatriots. A 17-year-old Jewish woman marched to defend the land of her ancestors. When did anyone witness such a scene before?
The march was, by far, the best concrete demonstration that Islam has nothing to do with terror. All the declarations and disclaimers by Muslim officials before this momentous day were not taken too seriously by many skeptics and Islamophobes. But this event is different. Now the nations of the world could see for themselves. Here was a shining example of “moral clarity,” a perfect illustration of conviction without hatred, national solidarity without scapegoats. It’s as if the marchers were marking a new day of independence, forging a new charter for the 21st century and the rest of the millennium. They were affirming that human oneness is more important than ideological purity; that human beings, regardless of faith, are more precious than theologies. God’s creation, in whatever color or idiom it appears, is always sacred. To destroy the beautiful but fragile fabric of life in such a reckless manner is nothing short of satanic.
No event has vindicated Islam more powerfully since 9/11 than this historic march. What misguided Muslims have destroyed the brave marchers in Casablanca have begun to mend. Raised in a melting pot at the crossroads of civilizations, Moroccans know how to live with difference. Only last week, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a resolution expressing solidarity with Morocco because, among other things, it “has chosen the path of diversity and tolerance.” The march in Casablanca will not only confirm this tradition, but it may also become a textbook model in the struggle for peace and justice in the Islamic world.
The long and painful road to global coexistence begins in Casablanca.